His mark has quite literally been left on the facilities, from the Gerry Faust Athletic Complex sign bearing his signature to the 8-foot bronze statue depicting him prowling the sidelines while donning a Moeller sweatshirt. His many accomplishments are listed below on the base of the statue: 12 Greater Catholic League titles, 10 city crowns, seven unbeaten seasons, five state titles and four national championships.
Not bad for the first coach in school history, a man who started the program from scratch when the school opened its doors in 1960 and coached until Notre Dame came calling with its infamous “bold experiment” in 1980. While his stint with the Irish is known mostly for its run of mediocrity – Faust never won more than seven games or lost more than six in five seasons in South Bend – there’s no denying the immense success that he enjoyed with the Crusaders in Cincinnati.
“The first thing that makes Moeller unique is what Gerry Faust did for the school,” Crusaders head coach John Rodenberg told BSB. “He came in here and he established a precedent that was just far beyond what other high schools were doing. We’ve fed off that tradition. There are a lot of kids who come to this school who don’t know who Gerry Faust is, but they still know what Moeller is because of him.”
Those involved with the football program are certainly aware of Faust, though. From the weight room to the artificial turf practice field, the story of the most decorated coach in school history is pretty hard to escape.
“Gerry Faust has a statue out on our practice field, so he’s pretty well-respected around here,” said junior tight end Jake Hausmann, whom Scout lists as the No. 1 tight end and No. 23 overall prospect for the 2016 class. “He helped build this program and brought it up to what it is now.”
Although he was building a new football program from the ground up, Faust had a couple of advantages that allowed him to seize control of high school football in Ohio. He had a mind for innovation, and he had the talent pool that allowed those innovations to thrive.
In his first season, the Crusaders managed a 4-6 record. During the rest of his career, though, they lost three or more games in a season just once over the course of nearly two decades.
“Gerry was so far ahead of everybody else in high school in the 1960s,” Rodenberg said. “He introduced weightlifting programs. He had his players doing ballet. He was so revolutionary at that time in high school football. That’s one of the ways he got ahead of everybody.
“Being in this area also helped. Things were done differently back then. There were districts, and this was a hotbed. You couple his revolutionary ideas with the fact that he was getting good athletes, and it was just like a recipe for success. It just exploded. Had he been at another high school and been revolutionary, I don’t know that it would have worked. But he had great athletes along with those ideas.”
Crusaders’ senior quarterback Matt Crable – described by Rodenberg as “Mr. Moeller” – is the son of Bob Crable, who played linebacker for Faust at both Moeller and Notre Dame in the 1970s and ’80s before being selected in the first round of the 1982 NFL draft by the New York Jets.
Although he is more than three decades removed from the days when his father and Faust won three straight state titles for the Crusaders, the younger Crable said that the standard set by Faust still exists in the minds of current players.
“He built the expectation for Moeller High School, so we are expected to win,” he said. “That’s how it’s been for 50 years now. The Moeller football team is expected to win. Over the last two years, we’ve done that. We’ve been able to win games and have lived up to those expectations.”
The tradition and expectation that Faust built briefly carried the Crusaders to a couple of state titles in 1982 and 1985 while the departed coach languished in South Bend. But it wasn’t until 2012 and 2013 that Moeller fully returned to the conversation of dominant Ohio teams by winning back-to-back Division I state championships.
Rodenberg, who was hired in December 2007, discovered upon his arrival that the foundation for greatness was still present.
“The other thing is that a lot of kids who come to the school now are not the kids who were coming to Moeller back in the ’70s, but they still know that name,” Rodenberg said. “Gerry started something that has just continued. When I get a kid in here, it’s a whole different level of expectation when a kid walks in this building. They know that this is a place that has produced championships. I really haven’t had to build tradition. It was built for me, and I’ve just had to continue it.”
A New Generation Of Champions
Having now produced championship teams in each of the last two seasons, Rodenberg has seen the process by which truly elite teams take shape. Regardless of the talent level, he said, it’s impossible to win a state title without a senior class that develops remarkable chemistry that trickles down to the rest of the team.
His squads in each of the last two years have had state title talent on paper, and he admits that this year’s group is also talented enough to win the crown. However, he said he won’t know how far that talent can take them until late in the season when he’s seen how the senior class leads and how the team responds to its first batch of adversity.
Given the importance that he places on making sure his team is a tight-knit group, Rodenberg has a few things he looks for when trying to instill in his players the characteristics he believes are necessary to win.
“The first thing you try to get across to them is that it’s a community effort,” he said. “Everybody has a role on this team, and I don’t lie to people about their roles. If we’ve got a star on the team, then he’s expected to play like a star and he’s treated to that level where he better play like a star. At the same time, the kid who’s playing scout team has to be a great scout-team player. Everybody has their niche, but everybody is important. My biggest thing is that you must play up to your expectation. If we’re playing up to expectations, we’ve got a shot.
“The other thing we try to cultivate is that we’re all in this together. I really emphasize the fact that we need to blend together as a team. There’s no hazing that goes on with this team. The seniors have their days to put away the equipment just like the sophomores do. The seniors may try a couple of times to have the sophomores put it away, and that’s when I come out and tell the seniors they have to do it. They get the message real quick that this is an equal effort.”
For the first few seasons of his tenure at Moeller, Rodenberg noticed his players had a tendency to wear down toward the end of the season. Because of that, he adjusted practices to make sure that his athletes were less fatigued at the most crucial point of the year.
That doesn’t mean he’s any less intense at those practices, though. Rodenberg said he likes to make sure that practices are finished in 2½ hours, and Hausmann noted that time wasting is a cardinal sin at Moeller.
“You should see him if we waste time,” Hausmann said with a laugh. “He’ll blow up. He keeps everyone on a tight schedule. If anyone is messing around, he’ll blow up and you won’t forget that.”
Practices at Moeller are also a place to watch your back. Hausmann snatched the starting tight end job from a senior when he was a sophomore in 2013, and he seemed well aware when discussing a younger tight end that the same thing could happen to him if he didn’t work hard enough.
Matt Crable, whose father coached at Moeller from 2000-2007, said he’d been warned by his dad to avoid injuries at all costs if he wanted to make sure he didn’t get passed on the depth chart.
“One thing he always says is, ‘Don’t get hurt.’ Whether I was a starter or a backup, I’ve never missed a game,” Crable said. “He always said that if you get hurt someone might step up in front of you.”
Moeller has the benefit of practicing on a nice artificial turf field emblazoned with a block “M” at midfield, which was finished right around when Rodenberg arrived. The expansive weight room is only 10 years old.
One thing the Crusaders don’t have, though, is a stadium to call their own. They take a 15-minute bus ride to Lockland Stadium, their de facto home stadium, for home games. Players walk off the bus with their helmet and shoulder pads on, a tradition that started back when Faust was stalking the sidelines.
“When you don’t have a home field, you actually get used to playing away all the time,” Rodenberg said. “When we come rolling into a stadium, we’re a lot of people’s big game. What we do is, we feed off the fact that we’re often the biggest game for our opponents and have a bull’s-eye on our back.”
Making The Pitch For Moeller
When asked what made Moeller special and different, Rodenberg eyed the daunting slate that his team faces and the improvement it brings about in his players. This fall, the Crusaders will take on Ohio powers Cincinnati St. Xavier, Cleveland St. Ignatius and Lakewood St. Edward, with only one of those contests coming at home.
Moeller will travel to Columbus twice – once to play St. Ignatius on Oct. 18 at Dublin Coffman and also to open the season Aug. 29 against Pickerington North at Crew Stadium in a rematch of a 2012 state semifinal – and also trip to Kentucky to take on Louisville St. Xavier on Sept. 19.
“First of all, you’re going to play the best teams in the country,” he said. “If you really truly feel you’re a champion, you’re going to be tested. Our league is just phenomenal. I think if you really want to be challenged, this place will do it.”
Hausmann gave a nod to the tradition that surrounds the school and offers a constant reminder to the players of what they’re measured against.
“If you look around the weight room, every great player that’s come through here can be seen on the boards,” he said. “The tradition is there and everybody knows about it. When you hear about Moeller, everyone thinks of tradition and brotherhood.”
And Crable, who has grown up watching his father teach and coach at Moeller, noted the bond that exists with his classmates both on and off the field.
“Everyone here relies on each other,” he said. “We’re brothers. That’s basically what it comes down to. Whether it’s in school or on the field, we know that we have to rely on each other. Everyone knows that if they do their part, we’ll all be successful.
“This is a family, and I’ve known that since I was born. I’ve seen it my entire life.”
OSU Signees Since 1988
LB Sam Hubbard (2014)
TE Ryan Hamby (2001)
RB Matt Keller (1995)
OL Rob Murphy (1995)
TE Max Langenkamp (1992)
OL Jack Thrush (1989)
Notable Current FBS Players
Marcus Rush – Michigan State DE
Alex Gall – Miami (Fla.) OL
Andrew Hendrix – Miami (Ohio) QB
Jeff Tanner – Miami (Ohio) OL
Ken Griffey Jr.